Testosterone production ability predicts breeding success and tracks breeding stage in male finches

K. E. Cain*, S. R. Pryke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Testosterone (T) is an important mediator of reproductive behaviours and potential target for selection. However, there are few data relating natural variation in T to fitness estimates. Here, we used the GnRH challenge (an injection of gonadotropin-releasing hormone which stimulates maximal T release), to examine how individual differences in T relate to reproductive success and how T changes across date and breeding stage. We measured pre- and post-challenge T, in captive male Gouldian finches (Erythrura gouldiae), before and after introducing females, and across breeding stage. Post-challenge T before introducing females positively predicted breeding success. Post-challenge T levels were unrelated to date, but strongly related to stage; T production ability was strongly attenuated in incubating males. Prechallenge T levels related only to date. Our results suggest that T production ability is an important target for selection and that when males invest heavily in parental care they reduce their sensitivity to GnRH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-436
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • birds
  • competition
  • fitness
  • gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH challenge)
  • individual variation
  • testosterone

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